Maroon is keeping it all in family

Maroon is keeping it all in family

CHAMPAIGN — Sam Beesley's lineage is both noteworthy and impressive when it comes to Champaign Central athletics.

His eldest brother, 2015 graduate Luke, played a key role in basketball and baseball, helping the Maroons to regional titles in those respective sports.

His other older sibling, 2017 alumnus Jake, was The News-Gazette's male Athlete of the Year to cap his three-sport high school career in football, basketball and baseball.

Sam Beesley doesn't have to live up to those legacies, per se. But the senior for the Maroons wouldn't mind making a similar mark at Central.

He has that chance Friday night, when the Maroons (8-6) visit rival Centennial (7-8) for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. (Live on WDWS)

"I'll definitely be bragging to my brothers (if we win)," Beesley said, "because I'm pretty sure I'm the only Beesley that's never lost to Centennial."

It checks out.

In Beesley's varsity career, Central is a perfect 3-0 versus the Chargers, and the Maroons own a current four-game win streak against Centennial.

And while Beesley primarily was a role player last season, he is now right in the thick of things when it comes to Central-Centennial.

The 6-foot-3 forward is not a huge point-producer, by his own admission. He notched five when the Maroons topped the Chargers 65-54 in Combes Gymnasium on Nov. 19 in the season opener for both programs.

But Beesley is a consistent presence in the starting lineup, and his primary tasks go beyond just scoring.

One of those elements is forcing the opposition into offensive fouls.

"Sam's taken charges his whole life," Central coach Jeff Finke said. "I've known him since he was about a third-grader playing basketball, and that's who he's been forever. ... He led us in charges taken last year off the bench, and he's leading us again this year."

Perhaps some of Beesley's mentality in that regard comes from playing pickup games with Luke and Jake back in the day.

"They would just body me and show their dominance around me," Sam Beesley said. "But I would always be the chippy one."

Beesley's defense is an aspect of his game in which he takes great pride.

It's not just getting a hand in someone's face or lunging for a steal, either. Beesley wants "to guard the best player" the other side has to offer.

"Last year, I'd come off the bench, I'd want Adam Miller or Ayo Dosunmu out of Morgan Park," Beesley said. "This year, I guarded (Belleville West's) E.J. Liddell, Mr. Basketball."

Finke feels there has to be some connection between Beesley's bloodlines — which include father and longtime local coach Joel Beesley — and his hardwood talents.

But there's even more to Sam Beesley's basketball attitude than just what's been handed down from his dad and older brothers.

"Sam's always loved basketball," Finke said, "and has always worked at it. He's a smart player. He's very cerebral. ... We play him almost anywhere."

That could mean Beesley is tasked with shutting down Centennial leading scorer Bryson Cowper on Friday. Or perhaps Beesley will shift to someone else in the powder blue.

No matter. He's just ready to end his chapter — the Beesley chapter — of this grudge matchup on a high note.

"I always knew that Central was my home, and I never really liked the blue over across town," he said. "I always saw myself winning the games and competing."